This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, business establishments or events is entirely coincidental. Comments and feedback are highly appreciated, send to firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm rattled by Mark's visit and can't contain my emotions. Even after all this time it feels like a fresh wound being reopened in a matter of minutes. All the memories, all the feelings are flooding back. I remember the day--the day it all went wrong. I try not to think about it, but that's easier said than done. So I sit, and I remember the day Staurt Breckett ruined my life all over again.
The weather was crappy, which reflected my feelings perfectly. I still remember the feeling of the brisk cold air hitting my face as I walk to Mark's house. It's only been a day since he discovered exactly who Stuart Breckett is and figured out what he's done, but we still have not talked about it. Or at least I refuse to, while he keeps pushing the subject. When I enter through the tall door I can hear Joanna speaking on the phone. She sounds distressed.
"Is it totaled?...Great...So Hilary's okay, right...that's good to hear...I don't know...well I don't think that would be the best idea...right...exactly...okay Chris, I will speak with you later...Okay, I will...Give her my regards." Joanna notices that I'm listening in the doorway.
"Mark's car, it's gone," she says sounding tired.
"Oh no," I reply. This will infuriate Mark, and that's the last thing he needs to be dealing with right now.
"Exactly. It's best we don't tell him for now. He's been doing so good lately," she says deep in thought. I nod my head, that sounds like a good plan to me. Personally I'm glad the ostentatious car is gone but I know Mark will flip out, and Joanna does too.
"Hilary was in an accident?" I ask cautiously. I don't want Joanna to get upset about me bringing her up. But I'm also curious to know how she feels about the woman who ruined her marriage. Joanna nods.
"Yes, fortunately she's fine. A few bruises and scrapes here and there." I nod, and we both smile at the thought of Hilary with scrapes and bruises.
"So I never asked, how did you like New York?" Joanna asks changing the subject.
"Uhm, it was...different," I say trying not to sound like I'm complaining. After all Joanna was the person who paid for my ticket. But she smiles kindly at my response.
"I'm just glad you were there with him. What did you think about Chris?"
"He's really nice. They're a lot alike, aren't they," I reply and she looks at me thoughtfully and nods after a while.
"Almost too much," she replies, "definitely more than Mark would ever admit to. And that really scares me. He wants to be the exact opposite of his father, but that's not how things work. The more different he wants to be from him the more like him he becomes. And he's very hard on himself, you know. Too hard." I nod. She's right; Mark is way too hard on himself. As she starts making some tea I excuse myself and walk upstairs to go into his bedroom. I find him sitting on his bed, laptop on his legs. When he sees me he takes his earphones out. He's in his dark gray sweat pants and shirtless, and the image is quite distracting.
"Hey," he says gently, but I notice the absence of his usual smile.
"Hey," I reply and sit at the edge of the bed, trying not to stare. He waits for me to continue, to say something. But I stay silent. He shakes his head, making me feel like a disappointment. I sit there in silence as my world falls into pieces yet again. Mark looks at me for what feels like the longest time, and then our conversation from the other day repeats again.
"I....I can't tell you," I reply.
"You have to tell me," he says seriously. "I want know everything about you," he whispers moving closer to me, "and nothing you ever say will make me angry at you, or disgust me, or make me leave you. Do you understand?" I nod my head and turn around.
"Look, I appreciate you saying that, I really do, but this is not something I want to talk to you about. This is my past, and that's where I want it to stay."
"But it's not in the past Jeremy, it's still in the present. You're still scared of that prick, and he hasn't paid for what he's done. He has a fucking family that he plays house with everyday. He runs his own business. He's walking around living his normal fucking life, while you're scared of sleeping. Do you think he gives a shit? You think he even feels guilty?" Mark's outburst freaks me out, I've never seen him so worked up about anything. And he's clearly been doing some research on Breckett.
"It doesn't matter," I mutter upset.
"It doesn't matter? It matters to me, okay?"
"This isn't about you," I reply annoyed, "this is about me, and I get to decide if I want to talk about it or not." He shakes his head clearly exasperated.
"I want you to press charges against the asshole," he says all of a sudden.
"What?" I blurt out terrified. The idea never even crossed my mind.
"I want him in prison for the rest of his life, do you understand? I'm not going to let him just get away with this," he tells me. I sit there unable to speak, and then decide to just walk away, like last time.
"Oh great, you're going to walk away again?" he yells at me annoyed. Tears start streaming down my face as I close the door and run down the stairs. I hate when Mark's mad at me. But this time he doesn't follow.
I sit at my house, trying to figure out what to do. Everything feels like it's spinning out of control. The whole situation is in shambles. I thought someone else knowing would make me feel better, I thought it would take away the burden, make it less scary, but right now it's just making my fears worse. I don't want to recount the details to anyone, let alone a jury. I don't want to tell Mark. I don't want this to be public. I don't want too relive it again. Why can't Mark just understand that? I wipe the tears away and go downstairs for dinner. While my family indulges in small talk I sit and nibble on my food, when I notice my sister watching me carefully.
"What's wrong with you, freak?" she asks. I ignore her, but now my parents' attention is turned to me as well.
"You okay Jeremy?" my father asks, almost annoyed that my well-being interrupted his mindless chatter. I nod and mumble that I'm not feeling so well. I get up and walk upstairs. I pace around the room, with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. When I can't take it anymore I sneak out of the house. I have to see Mark again; I have to make sense of all of this. But when I enter his house, and see Joanna give me a certain look of compassion, I feel another wave of anger. I shake my head and run upstairs to his room.
"I can't believe you told her!" I yell at him furious, every cell of my body burning with humiliation and anger.
"I'm sorry, I had to," he says, not looking very apologetic at all.
"You had to!? Really?" I ask enraged.
"Jeremy, you're free to be mad for as long as you want, you have every right. I betrayed your confidence, I understand. But right now, right now you need to keep the bigger picture in mind. So I need you to come downstairs and talk to her about it. Okay? I will leave you two alone, if you want me to, but I need you to tell her everything, so that she can put this guy away before I have the chance to find him and make my face the last thing he ever sees, okay? So please, can you go downstairs and talk to her? If not for you, then for me, because I really don't want to spend the rest of my life in prison," he pleads with me. I stand there feeling furious.
"I cannot believe you told her," I mumble again and make my way downstairs where Joanna is patiently waiting for me.
"Hey sweetie," she says when she sees me.
"Hi," I reply, all the life sucked out of me. I sit down, feeling terrified of what's about to happen. But Joanna is gentle and she only asks basic questions. So I tell her whatever I can remember. No gruesome details, just the basics. That I was molested as a child, that I never told anyone except for Lena. I tell her the when and the where. I tell her for how long. I tell her who. When I'm finished she looks at me with some concern and then proceeds, "unfortunately, in our state the statue of limitations for child molestation is three years, meaning it has already expired in your case." I stare at her in disbelief. So all of this was for nothing. All this torture, this fretting, all of it was pointless. The man who ruined my life will walk, because I waited too long to tell, because I was too afraid. I lower my head. "But there are other options."
"Other options?" I ask confused.
"Well, it seems that Breckett was in contact with hundreds of children over the years, there's a large possibility that he has more recent victims who would be able to press charges against him. I just need to find someone to talk to." I sit, astonished. In all these years I didn't even think of the fact that Breckett could have had more victims. I always kept everything hidden because I thought it only happened to me, that somehow I did something to deserve it. But I can't stay in the darkness any longer; the guilt would weigh me down too much. It's time to come out and wash out these demons, if not for me then for the others. I nod my head, finally willing to accept the fact that this can no longer be a secret.
I go back upstairs, feeling defeated, but somehow a little better at the same time. Mark looks at me questioningly.
"What happened?" he asks gently.
"We talked. She's working on it," I reply, not wanting to give him the details. He nods.
"Good," he says carefully studying my face. I slowly nod.
"I'm sorry I had to do that," he says sitting down next to me on his bed. I look at him, I'm still mad, and not able to talk, but I need his closeness. I pull him toward me and start kissing his mouth. At first he's surprised, but then he parts his lips open, allowing our tongues to mesh once again. I pull him on top of me, letting the warmth from his body spread into my cold skin. I moan into his mouth and he presses himself closer into me. The movements of our bodies making me forget everything else, if only for a while. We're both tired, and angry, and frustrated but we make the best of it. The taste of his mouth, the feel of his skin, the sound of his breathing getting more ragged and out of control until he presses himself into me with a groan, these are the things that ease the pain.
When I wake in the middle of the night, the first thing I do is look for Mark. I notice him sitting at his desk, just staring into space.
"What's wrong?" he asks suddenly noticing my awake presence.
"Come back to bed," I answer groggy. He gets up and makes his way back under the covers. He scoots in and wraps his arms around me. I turn around and gaze into his eyes.
"What are you thinking?" he asks me. I don't reply. "I can usually tell, but not today," he says sadly. I press my lips on his once again looking for a distraction.
"Baby," he whispers when he realizes what I'm trying to do. He gently moves away, "talk to me. You're sad, and I want to make it better."
"I know you do, but I don't think you can, I don't think it's possible to make this better," I reply honestly. He sighs frustrated. I bury my head in his neck, ready to fall back asleep. He kisses my temple, but I can feel a current of uneasy energy run through his body, and I know he's not going to sleep. Still, the weariness of the day takes its toll on me, and as I close my eyes my thoughts turn into nothing. When I wake up he's gone again. I look around the room but find it empty. I walk downstairs with a sinking feeling in my stomach, and for the first time in my life I see Joanna appear scared.
"What happened?" I ask frantically.
"Mark did something...something really bad."
"What?" I ask panicked. I notice the phone in her hand.
"Just hold on," she says on the verge of crying. She takes a deep breath, pulling herself together. She dials a number, I watch her every single move, desperately waiting for more information.
"Chris, it's about Mark, something happened," she says and starts walking toward her study. I follow her, hanging on her every word.
"I just got a call from the police," she says struggling to get the words out, "he's being held for aggravated assault," she says and takes a peek at me. My world stops. The words aggravated assault play over and over in my mind. "Yes I know, oh my god...well what am I supposed to say? Can you please make some calls? Okay, no he's being booked right now; they're not releasing him. Call me when you have something. Bye."
"What's happening?" I ask in tears. She swallows hard.
"He's being taken to a juvenile detention center," she answers slowly.
"Why?" I ask confused. A million thoughts run through my head. The word aggravated assault returning to my head.
"He put somebody in the hospital," she answers.
"What?" I ask. She nods.
"Breckett?" I ask horrified. She confirms my worst nightmare with a nod.
"It's my fault," she continues rambling, "he came down here and asked about the case, and I told him that for now we couldn't do anything because of the statue of limitations. I shouldn't have told him that. He had that look in his eye, I should have known something was off." I sit down, completely at a loss for words.
"What...what do we do?" I ask hopelessly.
"There isn't much we can do for now, he's being booked at the moment," she replies.
"So what's happening?"
"Well," Joanna starts explaining, "that means he's being searched, they're taking his photo, his fingerprints, and setting his court date. Usually they would release him to a parent until a further court date, but due to Mark's past record they feel he might be beyond rehabilitation, and they want to wait until he sees a judge," she says, also hopelessly.
"Why aren't you there? You're a lawyer," I say crying. She takes my hand.
"He has refused me as his lawyer, and doesn't want me there when he's being questioned. He decided to go with a state appointed attorney," she replies.
"What, why?" I ask not understanding. She shakes her head and cries with me.
"When can we see him?" I ask and she gives me a sad look.
"Not for a while," she replies.
"I don't understand," I mutter, "why would he do this."
"I don't know honey," she replies. She picks up her phone and makes another call.
"Hey Paul, it's Joanna....I'm not so great....Look, I need to ask for a favor. My son is in trouble....Yes, Mark....he's being held for aggravated assault and I can't be his attorney, I need you to get in on that case....Yes...uh ah....Please do, as soon as possible, he's pretty smart but I don't want him to incriminate himself....okay, thanks Rob. Call me. Thanks." We sit in silence for the next few hours, not knowing what to do, until a phone calls startles us. Joanna looks at the caller ID and we both know who it is. She picks up with a shaky voice.
"Hello?...Hi honey...How are you?...Look, don't say anything over the phone...okay good...Is Paul there?...no, that's out of the question, if I can't do it Paul will be on your case, no questions...oh baby," she breaks down crying,"yeah, he's right here, hold on," she passes me the phone. I take it and notice that my hand is shaking.
"Hello?" I mumble out. I hear a long pause, and then Mark's voice.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, I'll be fine," he answers, "don't worry about me."
"How do you expect me to do that Mark!?" I ask outraged, "why did you do that?" I ask but Joanna shakes her head at me. Mark shouldn't be saying anything incriminating over the phone.
"I'm sorry," is all he says back. "I'm really sorry." I stifle a cry.
"Promise me you're not going to do anything stupid in there," I say. I hear him chuckle. After a long pause he replies.
"I promise." I breathe a sigh of relief. "I have to go now. I'll talk to you soon," he says.
I sit in shock, my face wet from crying. Joanna sits opposite of me, looking quite shaken as well.
"What do we do now?" I ask. She appears to be thinking for a while.
"We wait, there isn't much else to do until tomorrow. You should probably go home, your parents will be worried." I think about the idea, and it terrifies me. The closest thing I have to Mark right now is this house, his room, his dog, and Joanna. I cannot go home while he sits locked up because of me.
"No, can I please stay? I just really can't be at home right now." She nods understanding.
"Well at least let your parents know where you are, okay? I'm going to lie down. My head feels like it's spinning," she says getting up. She gives me a hug and I cling to her, we both stay like this for a while.
When I enter Mark's room it feels cold and empty. I look to the corner, where Rowland is laying on his comfy looking bed. For some odd reason his presence is comforting.
"We'll be okay," I tell the beastly looking face as I pat his head. He looks up at me. "I miss him too," I say, sensing the dog seems to find Mark's absence strange. I walk to the bed and lay back. I stay like that until the morning sunrays start blinding my eyes. Then I get up and go downstairs, feeling like a shadow of a person. When I see Joanna I realize that we both had a sleepless night. She gives me a small smile.
"I feel like he'd want me to walk Rowland," she says looking at the sad dog that's trailing behind me.
"Yeah, that's a good idea. I'll make us something to drink," I reply. When Joanna is out I hear her cell phone ring. I want to answer it, but figure if it's important she can call whomever it is right back. But then the home phone starts ringing, so thinking it might be about Mark I answer it.
"Jeremy? It's Chris," I hear Mark's father say.
"Hi Chris," I reply.
"Is my wif...is Joanna there?" he asks correcting himself, as I hear a strange noise coming from the background. And then I remember the strange noise as Hilary, and have to stop myself from laughing.
"No, she's out walking the dog. Any news on Mark?" I ask hopeful.
"Nothing good for now. The arraignment was supposed to be at 8 this morning but they moved it to 11. They're taking this whole case extremely seriously, and Mark has quite a record, which looks very bad right now. The fact that they're actually detaining him is bad, and I think they want to charge and try him as an adult."
"What?" I ask panicking, "What does that mean?" I hear Chris give an exasperated sigh.
"It means he could be looking at time in prison." Joanna enters the house and I hand her the phone speechless. I cannot believe that the only person I care about could be going to prison because of me. The thought sickens me. I watch Joanna's reaction as she receives the same news I just did. She clasps a hopeless hand over her mouth, trying not to cry, trying not to fall apart. And all I can think of is what have I done. How did I let it get this far? And then my fury for Breckett deepens even further. He has ruined everything good in my life, and now I let him ruin the only thing I care about and the only person who cared for me. Mark. And I start thinking that whatever hospital he is in, I hope he's in pain. In as much pain as he has caused me.